May 11, 2010 – May is Older Americans Month and Better Business Bureau warns about scams targeting this demographic.
Why do scam artists target seniors? Because seniors:
§ Are more likely to be available at home to answer the door or phone.
§ Often are more trusting and less likely to suspect a con artist, especially when given a friendly pitch.
§ Are less likely to do home, auto or other types of repairs themselves.
§ Tend to own a home and carry high equity, making them predatory lending targets.
§ Are more likely to live on a fixed income, making promises of high returns or big savings more appealing.
§ May be embarrassed or fear losing control of their affairs if they report fraud.
"Con artists are masters at targeting emotions to gain sympathy or produce fear," said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. "This tactic can quickly walk anyone, especially some seniors, into a trap."
Grandparent Scheme: Claiming to be a grandchild or other loved one, the scam artist pleas for help with getting out of a foreign country, towing a stranded vehicle or getting bail for a crime they didn't commit. Ask the caller and family questions to avoid forwarding funds to a stranger.
Lotteries and Sweepstakes: Win notices promise prizes or big bucks and ask for personal information or funds to cover taxes or fees. "Winnings" are fake or fraudulent. In legitimate cases fees are taken out before winnings are sent and taxes are handled with annual tax returns. Remember, it is illegal to participate in foreign lotteries via phone or mail.
Government Impersonators. Posing as Social Security, Medicare or other government employees, crooks attempt to verify Social Security or bank account numbers. Be skeptical; ask for full contact information, then contact the real agency through a directory to verify legitimacy. Don't share medical insurance information with anyone except your medical providers.
Telemarketing: Avoid possible scams and unwanted sales pitches by registering home and cell phone numbers with the National Do-Not-Call Registry. This makes it illegal for telemarketers (excluding charity and political marketers) to call. Visit www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.
Charity Scams: Often claiming affiliation with police, firefighters or veterans, scammers solicit money for "charity," but pocket money instead. Visit www.bbb.org to get BBB Charity Reviews and more charity tips.
Savings and Investment Schemes: Beware of offers claiming high returns on investments or astronomical savings on products, programs or services. Deals don't always pan out, and may lead to high monthly fees.
Repair Scams: Be cautious of door-to-door "handymen" offering home or yard fixes. Some use leftover materials and promise huge discounts. Offers are tempting but some result in unfinished projects, poor workmanship or final invoices being much higher than originally estimated.
BBB Tips. Get written contracts and verify licensing. Don't deal with businesses that won't provide detailed contact information. Visit www.bbb.org to check BBB Reliability Reports and get scam prevention tips.